Utilities Commission rejects partnership with OC Water

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By Kenny Colston

The La Grange Utilities Commission has decided to search for a new director, rather than join in a management partnership with the Oldham County Water District.

At its regular monthly meeting Monday, all four commissioners voiced their desire not to join in a management partnership, after hearing a presentation from the OC Water District in a special meeting a few weeks earlier. A fifth sat out of the decision making process for personal reasons.

“I still feel at this point, I’m not real comfortable with us being a partner with Oldham County Water,” Commissioner Dan Powers said. “It’s an avenue for us to lose some influence we have as a board and more so than that, to lose the responsibility we have to the community.”

Other commissioners, including City Councilman Joe Davenport, agreed.

“I don’t see anything broke that we need fixed,” Davenport said. “I’ve thought about it a lot and I don’t feel comfortable taking that first step at all. I think we’ll be fine, the major thing is, let’s go ahead with a new director.”

Commissioner John Glauber and Chairman Roy Horton also agreed against a partnership, with Horton saying he believed the board had a “consensus to go ahead and hire a director.”

The commission has been considering its management options since former director John Bennett was relieved of his duties by La Grange Mayor Bill Lammlein. Assistant Director Ted Chisholm has been acting director for roughly a month.

With their direction set on future day-to-day management of the utilities, the board then set about its procedures for hiring a new director.

The board selected Powers and Glauber to serve as a two-person committee to help evaluate the qualifications the board would like to list in advertising for a new director. The two may also help pare down resumes when the commission gets to that point, as well as give a suggested salary range for a future hire.

While the committee works on the qualifications, LUC attorney Don Prather will work with La Grange City Attorney Steve Emery to help clean up the city ordinance that deals with the commission hiring a director, the board decided.

Prather said the current ordinance is littered with conflicting parts, including whether the commission appoints or employs a new director, as well as limits whether current city or commission employees can apply for the director position.

Under the current ordinance, Prather said, he doesn’t believe Chisholm, the acting director, could even apply for the permanent position unless he quit the commission for a full year.

“I start reading this and my eyes just glaze over,” Prather said. “I think this ordinance needs to be clarified.”

Prather said he’s already had initial discussions with Emery on the ordinance and he hopes to give Emery a draft of a cleaned-up ordinance so the city council can give a first reading to the new legislation at its April meeting.

On that schedule, a potential second hearing and public hearing of the clean-up ordinance would be in May and the commission seemed reluctant to hire a new director until the existing ordinance was fixed.

At the same time, commissioners expressed satisfaction with Chisholm’s job performance so far, allowing them extra time to hire a director.

The board also expressed problems with the employee manual that governs its director that was passed decades ago by the city council, but decided to leave those changes for another time.

“Decide what you want in a director right now, then work on other things,” Prather said.

At the meeting, the board also reappointed Horton as chairman and Glauber as secretary of the commission’s board.

The board undertook the election since Lammlein and the city council recently reappointed Horton, Powers and Davenport to the utilities commission and city ordinance requires a new election of officers each time a new quorum is appointed.

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